Maradana & Maligawatte (Colombo 10)
Maradana, Colombo 10, begins at the De Soyza Circus (a.k.a. Lipton’s Circus) Roundabout where Cinnamon Gardens ends, and stretches north of Colombo 7 alongside Ward Place towards Dematagoda, Colombo 9, on its west and ends at Grandpass, Colombo 14.
The town, since old times, has always been infamous for its crime with gangs and thugs clashing with each other in the small towns of Maligawatte, Maligakande, & Panchikawatte. Although it contained the popular General Hospital, The Victoria Memorial Eye Hospital, and the Medical College, within its confines, its streets and passages also provided safe haven to many illicit activities involving liquor, women, drugs, and crime. The name “Maradana” itself, being mentioned in conversation used to conjure chills up anyone’s spine in the old days.
Zahira College, the first Muslim boys school in Colombo is located in Maradana opposite to the Railway Station on Maradana Road since renamed to Orabi Pasha Mawatha, after the Egyptian exile Arabi Pasha who was one of the founders and benefactors of the school. Maradana Road stretches north towards'St Sebastian Hill in Hultsdorf while its souther journey ends at the Borella junction.
The Maradana Railway Station is a vital component of the transport system into and out of the city being one of the two main hubs within the city of Colombo. Most train traffic to all parts of the island usually originate at Fort or Maradana Station. The station also provides valuable support services for the running of the railway system in the country.
The famous Elphinstone Theatre and Tower Hall are also within this town on Panchikawatte Road which extends all the way from the junction to Armour Street.
Some sections of the town, within proximity of the Hospital and Medical College, have provided decent residency for middle and upper middle class citizens while the areas further north have always been cluttered with slums and ghettos within a motley of both residencies and trading outlets.
The town has also been very famous for its many printing presses and motor spare businesses which still thrive successfully today. Being in close proximity to the business towns of Pettah, Hultsdorf, and Grandpass, one must accept that obvious fact of the impact of business within this town too.
The Central Theatre, which usually showed Tamil, Hindi & Sinhalese movies was also a very popular attraction within this town. The New Olympia was a very popular English Movie Theatre Hall. Both the Central and the New Olympia were owned and managed by the Jabir Cader, ex MMC, MP and UNP member, family who also owned the Liberty Cinema in Kollupitiya.
St Josephs College is one of the very popular Catholic Schools located along Darley Road in Maradana. The rear of the school borders part of the Beira Lake. Other schools in Maradana are Mahabodi Vidyalaya, Ananda College, Dharmadutasrama Vidyalaya, Srimath Baron Jayatilleke Vidyalaya and Gothami Balika Vidyalaya.
The Buriyani famous Buhary Hotel is also located on Panchikawatte Road in Maradana. It was originally owned and managed by a Muslim business family but later taken over by the Government and run under the GOBU system that was put in place sometime in the eighties.
Bake House, a very popular and famous bakery is also located on Deans Road, opposite the Eye Hospital, in Maradana.
Maligawatte is a section of Maradana bordering Panchikawatte Road and extending east towards Dematagoda and north towards Granbdpass.
Streets of Maradana & Maligawatte
Maradana Road (Orabi Pasha Mawatha, Kularatne Mawatha & Gnanaratne Pradeepaya Road). One of the longest street in Maradana, starting at the junction and stretching itself to Borella junction at Baseline Road. In recent times the street has been broken up into three and renamed to Orabi Pasha Mawatha at the Maradana end, Kularatne Mawatha in the Middle and Gnanaratne Pradeepaya Road at the Borella end, where Ward Place and Baseline Road meet.
The Maradana Railway Station and the Police Station are located side by side on the left side while Zahira College stands tall on the right. The Maradana Jumuah Mosque is located within the premises of Zahira College at the entrance on the right. The school grounds used to be a cemetery during British Colonial times.
Further down on the left is Ananda College founded by Anagarika Dharmapala. Several famous bookstores, photography studios, and other businesses have been thriving on this street since ancient times.
Buhary Hotel is located on its left adjoining the Tower Hall. Many famous business houses dealing in Motor Spares, Building Materials, Cement, Paints and Sanitary ware are located here. The road is intersected by a roundabout which connects it to Śrī Sangharaja Mawatha, coming from Hultsdorp, and Pradeepa Mawatha, running towards Dematagoda.
Driebergs Avenue (Jayantha Weerasekera Mawatha)
Maligawatte New Town Road
Other streets in the Maligawatte area are, Abhayasinharama Road, Sevana Mawatha, HR Jothipala Mawatha, Ramya Place, Rajapokuna Mawatha, Parisara Mawatrha, Hijra Mawatha, & Hela Mawatha, all located behind the Maradana Railway Station towards Pradeepa Mawatha.
Across from Pradeepa Mawatha are located, Jayatilleke Place, Maligawatte Place, Police Quarters, PD Sirisena Playground and Srimath Baron Jayatilleke Vidyalaya.
Maligawatte Housing Scheme
Deans Road (Ven Baddegama Wimalawansa Thero Mawatha)
Regent Street ( E W Perera Mawatha)
De Saram Place
Norris Canal Road
Piyadasa Sirisena Mawatha
Ven S Mahinda Mawatha
J E Gunasekera Mawatha
Dematagoda Road (Śrī Vajirangana Mawatha & NMM Ishak Mawatha)
School Lane connects Dematagoda Road to Jayantha Weerasekera Mawatha through the tunnel where the railway lines run overhead. St Anthony’s Road and Mallikarama Mawatha connect Dematagoda Road to itself in a circular manner. The CMC cleaning department is located at this point.
Zavia Mosque Lane is also a small side street that branches off Dematagoda Road and links to Reservoir Road which also intersects Dematagoda Road in two. There is a small playground, free dispensary and a Mosque located in this area. A sub post office stands on Reservoir Road.
Ketawellamulla Lane branches off Dematagoda Road and connects to Temple Road crossing Elias Place. Ketawellamulla Place branches off Siri Dhamma Mawatha at Maligakande closer to Borella. The area between Ketawellamulla Lane and Siri Dhamma Mawatha is referred to as Maligakande.
Gospel Lane is another small street off Dematagoda Road where a block of flats and a community center are located.
Pasha Villa, one of the premises of the Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home (MICH), named after Arabi Pasha, is located here. Many small houses and tenements line both sides of the street and are mainly occupied by middle class Colombo Moor families. Several small passages exist on either side of this street which are very narrow and also house small houses.
Dr Ramzeen’s Medical Clinic used to be located down this street and was patronized by many who lived around the neighborhood.
Rev Hikkaduwe Śrī Sumangala Thera Mawatha
2nd Maligakande Lane
Śrī Sugathawansa Mawatha
Ananda Rajakaruna Mawatha (Campbell Place)
Union Place (Colvin R de Silva Mawatha)
The YWCA is located on this street just beyond where Hyde Park Corner is situated.
The very old, yet famous, Ratnams Hospital, lies on this street between the Agricultural Insurance Board and the Peoples Bank branch. Further down, towards Borella junction, is located the Department of Provincial Registrar of Companies.
Fountain Café, a popular hang-out joint for ice cream fans run by the Ceylon Cold Stores Ltd (Elephant House) is located down Union Place.
Darley Road (TB Jayah Mawatha)
St Joseph’s College, The Fire Brigade, Head Office of The Hatton National Bank, Capitol Theatre (now demolished), The New Olympia Cinema (car park entrance), and several businesses involving paint stores, motor spare centers, restaurants etc are located on both sides of the street. The Ministry of Irrigation & Power and the Ministry of Science & technology are located on this street.
A very old and famous Home for the Aged is also located at the far end of Darley Road on the left. The location where a popular Movie Theatre once stood has now been converted into modern business establishments.
Forbes Road (Devanampiyatissa Mawatha)
Arnold Ratnayake Mawatha
Fountain House Lane
Was created in recent times and named after A E Goonesinghe, a famous politician who espoused the cause of the working class people.
For all intents and purposes it is considered a locality within the Pettah. Many businesses and trading companies are located here.
Who was ‘Mariya’ ?
Many of our politicians are condemned for using "mariyakaday language". Having always been interested in place names and their origins, I am curious as to the identity of this ‘Mariya’ and her ‘kaday’ that were so noteworthy as to have a locality commemorating her. Apart from this eponymous ‘heroine’, I wonder when exactly this name came into use. Perhaps that indefatigable urban historian Mr.Fred Medis may throw some light on the intriguing mystery of this Mariya whose name yet ‘adorns’a locality and has even become an adjective [as in ‘mariyakaday language’]
I am sure the name of this humble boutique-keeper will long remain after those of politicians, who shamelessly give their names to assorted ‘Mawatas’, have long disappeared into the dustbin of history they so richly deserve.
All credit to Tissa Devendra for raising this question (The Island 12-09-07). Few today are the people who venture to raise such questions. Most of them have lost the child's curiosity that makes it ask, "Why is the sky blue?" Most grown-ups rebuff the child because they themselves do not know the answer. Tissa is lucky to have had elders who never made him stop wondering about such ordinary things. This writer too has been wondering about this question because of his interest in the meanings of place names. Alas! No Sinhala lexicon published so far has been able to answer that question.
Recently I visited a place called Komariya near Potuvila in the Ampara district. People there have a joke about a Sinhala sailor who lost his mistress named 'Marie' in that region and went on crying "Ko Marie?" But Komari appears to be an ancient name coeval with Sangamankanda ("The Hill in the Pathway of the Sangha") ruins found there. These date back to about the second century BC, judging from the absolutely plain moonstone found at a landing on the rock-cut flight of steps to go up that hill. That 'Komari' is most likely to be the name of a plant (Aloe vera) derived from its Sanskrit name, Kumari, (because young maidens or 'Kumaris' were fond of using its gel as an emollient to beatify their youthful skins). Incidentally, Cape Comorin (Kanya Kumarin) in South India and Komarikagama in Badulla district are also derived from the name of the same plant called Kanya in Sanskrit, and Kumarin in Hindi and Komarika in Sinhala.
The clue to the real meaning of Mariya (with the long "a") comes from Henry Parker who compiled the "Village Folk Tales of Ceylon" in three volumes. In Folk Tale, No. 88 (Vol. 11 p. 60) he discusses the meaning of 'Mariya'. During the Kandyan period the garden produce was not sold, but exchanged or "bartered." The popular saying "Inguru deela miris gatta vageyi" illustrates the fact that Sinhala people were not skilled at this form of trade. The proper barterers were the Moors (some of whom bore the name Marikkar, or "barterer" in Tamil). Hence, Mariyakade could have got that name because of a trader, at whose shop or "kadey," the goods sold had been acquired by barter. The language used at a place would have been similar to that heard at a "lellama" on the seashore where 'catchers' who have established a prescriptive right to the business, take charge of the fishermen's catch to haggle for the highest price. The Sinhala saying "Sellama lellama vevi" illustrates the nature of the "un-Parliamentary" language commonly heard in such places, and particularly, at Mariya Kade.
The place name Mariyakaday in Maradana has, over a period of time covering at least three centuries, acquired a dubious reputation or notoriety similar to that of London's fish market which gave to the English vocabulary the word "Billingsgate" meaning foul and abusive language.
At first glance the name appears to have connections with the Christian religion and the Roman Catholic church with its reference to Mary or Maria the mother of Jesus. But to trace its origin it is necessary to go back three centuries to a time when Colombo city (except for the present day Pettah and the west end of the Fort) was a vast water- logged area which took the name Beira, meaning "swamp" in Portuguese. In this scenario there was no MaCallum Road (D. R. Wijewardana Mawatha), Fort Railway Station, Lake House, Lotus Road, Olcott Mawatha (earlier known as Norris Road). All these formed a part of the Beira.
Between the Pettah and the hinterland was a small elongated island (later called Captain's Garden)..... This must not be confused with the other large island in the lake which, during the Dutch occupation, was declared by plakaart the nocturnal quarters of slaves brought to Ceylon from Mozambique and East Africa to work in the residences of Dutch officials.
Here in Captain's Garden was constructed a Hindu Pillaiyar kovil which served the adherents of the Hindu religion residing in the sparsely populated area of this part of Colombo known as the Maran-stan (Tamil for "place of trees") Maran-dhan or Maradana. The worshippers came, to Captain's garden kovil on rafts or in small open boats. But during the period when the monsoonal flooding had eased, the approach to the island shrine was fordable up to Suduwella (so named later because of the grey-white sand thrown up during the construction of the railway in the 1860's. This lake (or river sand) covered part of the terrain. From here, across the area where the Olympia cinema was later built, the pathway led to the site of the present public market where Mariyakaday is situated - the distance being about a quarter of a kilometer, as the crow flies.
It will be necessary to disabuse our minds of the present-day connotation of the word "kaday" With its implications of a buying and selling market - place (it is good to remember that Kochchikaday and Aluthkaday have no such implications.) A kaday can also mean an enclave or a meeting place or caravanserai or resting place on a pilgrimage.
Complementary shrines are known to be situated in close proximity to important Hindu kovils and temples. There are Mariamman Hindu shrines in Kotahena, Kandana, on the east coast near Batticaloa, Kalmunai and in other locations. The best-known is the Muthu-Mariamman kovil in Matale town with its imposing gopuram. The Pillaiyar kovil is on the parallel road a short distance away. Mariamman can mean symbolically the fertility mother-goddess of rain and harvest. In this particular temple in Matale, Mariamman has connection with goddess Paththini whose shrines have been constructed all over Sri Lanka for over a thousand years from the time of King Gaja Bahu (AD113-114). Here the story of Kovalan and Kannaki as related in the Tamil epic Chilapathiharam has contributed to the dedication of numerous shrines for Paththini worship both by Hindus and Buddhists. It is very likely that one such shrine could have been the Mariyakaday or place where believers congregated on their way to and from the Pillaiyar kovil between Captain's Garden and Maradana.
However, whichever way one looks at it, there is no likelihood that Mariyakaday was at any stage the market or boutique of a woman named Maria.
It might be relevant to mention that although the theological divergences that exist in the Catholic faith with it's belief in the powerful intercession of Mary the mother of Jesus through the reverence of hyperdulia (as opposed to Mariolatry which is the extreme form of veneration) - and the Hindu religion with its cult of Kali and Uma (the Mother -goddess) and the Paththini cult which is a later off-shoot of this belief on the lines of the ancient Greek rites for Persephone, daughter of Demeter the goddess of crops and fertility - there are outstanding parallels and similarities which cannot be ignored.
Fredrick MendisVice President Royal Asiatic Society, President Royal Commonwealth Society - Daily Mirror Thu Oct 4 2007
Mariya of Mariyakade
D. G. A. PERERA
When I launched my ‘message in a bottle’ to identify Mariya of Mariyakaday [in your journal of 21/9] I never imagined the tremendous response from your erudite correspondents. Your readers have now been enlightened about the cityscape of Portuguese Colombo, Sinhala etymology, camping spots for thirsty carters, Pattini worship, Marakkala traders, schoolboy digs near the three 'Mariakaday schools' -[Ananda, St.Joseph's, Zahira] - urban rainfall patterns, baila, the 1915 riots, crime-busting in old Boston and, of course, the salty-tongued barmaid' of legend. I am grateful to your correspondents who took up my query and went on to entertain us with a treasure-trove of fascinating information. It is now patently clear that far more veils than seven hide the mysterious Mariya – and long may she so remain, as elusive as the lost Bride of Netherby or Rider Haggard's SHE.
May I now, dear Editor, poach into your preserves to declare "This correspondence is now closed"
Please permit me to make my contribution to the ongoing exchanges in the VIEWs column on the subject of Mariya Kade.
When the 1960 Batch entered the then
The lyrics went as follows
"Those who came from Mariya Kade panawo//
Those who came from mariya kade,
Kawe gaman eriya..... "Pooh, it is a disgusting word to mention!
Whilst singing this section of the baila, they used to eye the Anandians in a derisive manner, much to the annoyance of the latter. We therefore surmised that Mariya Kade was in the proximity of
Of course this Baila had stanzas extolling the salient virtues and idiocyncracies of "those who come from
H. M. G. B. Kotakadeniya
Daily Mirror, Sat Oct 20 2007
A town located on the east of Pettah adjoining Gunasinghepura and to the west of Maradana. It has been the seat of all legal activity in the City of Colombo with the Courts being located in its heart.
Most lawyers and legal professionals have their offices in this small town. It is bordered by Śrī Sangharaja Mawatha on the South.
The Ministry of Justice is also located here within the Courts complex.
The important streets of Hultsdorf are Hultsdorf Street, Belmont Street, Wilson Street, Meeraniya Street, Dam Street, Oilman Street, Abdul Hameed Street, & Peer Saibo Street.
Bloemendhal & Grandpass
Bloemendhal Road (K Cyril de Silva Mawatha)
The famous finishing school for ladies, Claremont, is located on it closer to Kotahena. St. Benedicts College and Primary School are also within its proximity, in Kotahena, towards the west with 5th Lane, 6th Lane and 7th Lane linking them. Bloemendhal Lane is also a by road off Blomendhal Road which meets at the Wasala Road – Wall Street (renamed to St Benedict’s Street) junction at Kotahena.
Bloemendhal Road runs under the bridge of the Port Access Road, moving northwards where it connects to Madampitiya Road in Mutuwal. From here it extends further as Śrī Pannananda Mawatha. The Port Access Road begins at Aluthmawatte Road in Mutuwal and extends across Bloemendhal to meet at the junction of Silversmith Street (renamed to Sirimavo Bandaranaike Mawatha) and St Josephs Street and then moves further east to join Dematagoda Road at Orugodawatte just before the Kelanitiss Thermal Power Station of the Electricity Board.
Joseph Dias Mawatha and St James Street connect Bloemendhal Road to Aluthmawatte Road in Mutuwal.
Silversmith Street branches off Jethawana Road at Layard’s Broadway and runs north-east towards Bloemendhal.
Panchikawatte Road, which beginst at the Maradana junction moves northwards and then becomes Śrī Sangarajah Mawatha at Grandpass, from the Pradeepa Road intersection, and thereafter Śrī Sumanatissa Mawatha, from Silversmith Street, and then becomes Skinner’s Road North (renamed to George R de Silva Mawatha) at Bloemendhal. Bloemendhal Road (K Cyril C Perera Mawtha) branches off Skinners Road at the right a little north of Layards Broadway.
Madampitiya Road stretches across Bloemendhal all the way from Modera Street in Mutuwal up to Dematagoda Road at Urugodawatte where it has been renamed to Sedawatte Road from the Silversmith Street junction.
The historical development of Grandpass, from a ferry service to a busy landmark, has been shaped by many a personality
The city of Colombo grew over the alluvial fan of the river Kelani. The river contributed immensely to its defence, and to maintain the ecological balance in the city’s environment. It provided water to Beira Lake through the St. Sebastian canal, and drained spill water to the sea via outlets in Galle Face and in a place near St. John’s fish market.
On the northern and north-eastern sides, it was a protective barrier to the city. The military expeditions led by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British started from the direction of Negombo and crossed over the Kelani, either through the ferry at Wattala, or at Grandpass to attack Colombo. The people from Kandy and Negombo, including Kandyan envoys arrived in the city via the Grandpass ferry, and as a result, over the ages, particularly the vicinity of Grandpass became densely populated with a market place and a toll.
Perhaps the Kelani was the most ferried river in the island in the 17th and 18th centuries. If we start from the estuary and head upstream, there was one ferry between the present Śrī Wikrama Mawatha in Mattakkuliya and Hendala, referred to in the old documents as ‘Pas Betel’ and in modern maps as ‘Pasbetal’. The next one was between Nagalagam or present Grandpass and Peliyagoda. Further up there was one in Kelanimulla to cross over to Kelaniya Temple, which is now being replaced by a modern bridge. There was one in Kaduwela and another in Hangwella both replaced by new bridges.
Out of these, the two ferries close to Colombo were called ‘passo’ by the Portuguese and ‘pass’ by the British. When Victoria and the New Kelani bridges were opened to the public, the fame of Nagalagam and Pasbetal gradually declined. Subsequently, one more added in the Dutch times was referred to as Kleine Pas or ‘Small Pass’. This third one was not a ferry, but a sluice in St. Sebastian canal, which took water from the Kelani river to Beira Lake.
‘Pas Betel’ is located at the northernmost point of Colombo, which could be approached by the Mattakuliya Church Road and Śrī Wikrama Mawatha. This nomenclature carries romance in plenty. When the Dutch took over Colombo from the Portuguese, they entered the outskirts of the city at this point, having already captured Negombo. The British did precisely the same, and placed a contingent of
Wurtenburgs, a mercenary regiment under the command of Captain La Grevise, a Frenchman who unfortunately put his ‘jingals’ into the river and beat a hasty retreat.
The etymology of the word ‘Pas Betel’ is explained in many ways. It is associated with the village name Wattala, therefore its correct name should be ‘Pas Wattala’ or ‘Wattala Pass’. Apparently, the Europeans mispronounced it and called it ‘Pas Betel’. The ferry at Wattala was ‘Pas Betel’ for the Portuguese, and later on account of the inability to pronounce it, it became ‘Pas Betel’, and this has also gone into documents. The Dutch continued the same as ‘Pas Betael’ and the British as ‘Pasbetal’.
It is interesting to note that 12 selected fishermen called baddatoereas, who resided in and around ‘Pas Betael’ were obliged to provide fish, exclusively to the Governor’s House for his midday meal. The fish was to be delivered at a given time only to the steward of the Governor’s House in Colombo. These fishermen were allowed to cast their small nets only in the river between Mutwal and Pas Nakalagam. The order in this respect was issued in Colombo on October 5, 1706.
The largest out of these passes is Grandpass, which in ancient times was called Nagalagam Tota; perhaps this must be the older name connected with worship of divine nagas. This place is within the ancient Kalaniya kingdom, where the conflict between two naga kings Culodara and Mahodara took place. The nagas are considered to be associated with water in classical literary traditions, and there would have been a guard stone or a similar object venerated by the laymen crossing the ferry.
The Portuguese called this place Nacolagam, in order to differentiate the ferry of Wattala. They also called it Grande Passo, which became Grandpass later in the British times, which is still in common use. Grandpass is recorded by the Dutch in different ways, such as Groote Pas, Pas Nacollegam, Pas van Goensdorp, ‘Border guard of the Four Gravets of Colombo’, but never ‘Grandpass’.
According to instructions issued to the caretaker of the Pas Nakelegame on July 9, 1670, this was an important gateway to Colombo, where the produce from Arandara, Ruvanwella and areas of the interior were brought to the city. It is recorded that he was instructed to oversee whether the locals passing the ferry carry arms and ammunition with them up and down, and if so, to issue them a licence after listing them. The transport of iron, gunpowder, bullets and saltpetre into the city was prohibited. Cash fines were imposed on undeclared goods. The arrack transported to the city was taxed at this point. Except for the supplies to the company, all other timber was similarly dealt with.
The crafts passing Pas Nakelegame were checked, and a toll was charged. This arrangement indicates that Grandpass functioned as an important income-generating checkpoint to the Dutch company.
This neighbourhood appears to have taken the fancy of the Dutch governors from early times. Governor Rijckloff van Goens (1664-75) was so enamoured of the spot that he laid out a large tract of ground along the river, which carried the name of Van Goensdorp or ‘Van Goens Village’ in many Dutch records. Van Goens, both father and son, were Dutch Governors in Colombo, who made Grand pass their country seat.
Undoubtedly, this tradition must have been continued by his successors, and in 1777 Governor Iman Willem Falck (1765-85) had a villa in Grandpass with cinnamon planted in the garden. The last Dutch Governor Johan van Angelbeek (1794-96) was also said to have had a country house at Grandpass. “It contained a row of offices and a handsome farm-yard. There were two houses of one floor each for the accommodation of the family. These lie parallel to one another, and it is necessary to pass through the first to get at the second, which is raised on the embankment of the river. The stream is green, gliding along from the windows, and is broad, deep and rapid… General Macdowell and his staff lived there several months at a time.”
An engraving of the Governor’s house in Grandpass is to be seen in Valentijn’s Oud and Nieuw Oost Ondien… published in 1726, which was translated into English by Prof. S. Arasaratnam and published by the Hakluyt Society, London in 1978. This was situated immediately to the north-east of the present Madampitiya Road, and the ferry at Grandpass on the road in the direction of Negombo. Valentijn seems to have taken his view from the end of Nagalagam Street.
Grandpass came to be constantly crowded in the early British times with large flat bottom boats, which came down from Negombo with dried fish, roes and shrimps, firewood and other day-to-day supplies. These activities made the environment pleasant, and as a result a popular country seat was forming with large colonial mansions commanding wider prospects and a greater diversity of scenery, before the gentry diverted to Cinnamon Gardens in the early 20th century. A little to the east of the ferry, which connected Nagalagam Street with Peliyagoda, stood a bridge of boats. The bridge consisted of a number of boats placed next to each other in parallel formation, and held together by a number of planks fastened across. There were protecting rails on either side, and the bridge was lit with coconut oil street lamps at night. This kind of construction had the advantage of rising and falling with the tide and flood, and at certain times could have been hastily dismantled in the event of an invasion by the Kandyan troops or when water levels increased during the monsoon rains.
After the ferry at Wattala, the bridge of boats was the most important crossing in the Kelani river to get into the outer environs of Colombo, and for that reason, the area gained the name ‘Great Pass’, now rendered Grandpass that would confound the historian studying place names.
Robert Percival (1803) marked Grandpass in his map ‘Pas Betel’, and the reference to Petit Pas probably by mistake. It is Charles Francois de la Tombe in his travel account (1811), who called it in his own language, Petit Pas.
During the period that ‘Small Pass’ received its name, the Beira Lake reached almost up to the foot of the Dam Street hill. The short stretch of ground between the two was a swamp, which the Dutch dammed and ‘polderised’ later. It was due to this reason that the dammed area came to be known as Dam Street, which is used even today.
At the top of the pass was the stronghold of General Gerard Hulft (1656). The intrepid Dutch General had his camp and his council of war before the final assault on the Portuguese at the Fort of Colombo. The street crossing the ‘Hulft’s village’ today on the name board indicates ‘Hultsdorp’. However, its correct spelling should be ‘Hulftsdorp’. The law courts complex is situated in this locality.
The ‘Small Pass’ has been built upon long since, and the geography of the place has changed beyond recognition. One of the earliest buildings in this vicinity in the British times was Colombo Kachcheri that still exists with extensive modifications. This building was constructed on a ground belonging to one of the earliest Government Agents of Colombo, Cadell. The position of the Government Agent was then called ‘Collector’. Based on this story the locality came to be known as Cadell Disage Watta or the garden belonging to Dissave Cadell. Over the ages this usage took a different direction, and is now called Kehel Watta after shortening the sound pattern to suit the Sinhala usage. From the commercial point of view, the most important Dutch canal in the city was the St. Sebastian canal. It was used to transport heavy goods from Grandpass to Beira Lake and then to the water front in the Colombo harbour. This route existed even in the 1920s, when the old Parliament building and the Secretariat were constructed; the heavy blocks of stone were brought from a quarry in Ruvanwella to the premises in Galle Face through this canal.
Out of three famous passes in Colombo, only Grandpass now exists, limited only to its value as a place name.
The Hebtulabhoy's of Sri Lanka
The family business began as importers of food, in the year circa 1882, and developed into a large conglomerate consisting of M S Hebtulabhoy & Company Limited and several other subsidiary companies.
The Hebtulabhoy's have been trading in Ceylon for well over 125 years (in the year 2007) since Shaikh Hebtlabhoy arrived from Kutch Mandivi in India. He set up his enterprise was situated at Nos 145 & 147, Fourth Cross Street, in the Pettah. Having purchased the property on Sep 9, 1887, the family still own it, clinging on to it and cherishing its precious memories and beginnings. The ground floor consisted the office and shop while the upper floor was used by Shaikh Hebtulabhoiy and his family as their residence. Most of his sons and some of his grandsons have spent the best part of their lives living in these premises since the inception of their life in Ceylon.
Shaikh Hebtulabhoy also extended the boundaries of his trade to the Maldive Islands and Calcutta in India. His business in the Maldives was conducted under the trade name of "Moosbhai Mohamedally & Company" and the one in Calcutta was named, "Moosbhai Shaikh Hebtulabhoy". He also ventured into shipping and purchased two vessels, "Ganga Hussain" and "Ganga Alimadad", which carried goods regularly between Colombo and the Maldives. He later added another vessel, "Daria Dowlat" to his fleet.
Shaikh Hebtulabhoy also invested in real estate and acquired valuable property in Ceylon and India. Ironically, the only property that he owned which is still possessed by his successors is the one at Fourth Cross Street in the Pettah where the family business was founded.
His eldest son Moosbhai was entrusted the management of his business in Ceylon and India, towards the latter stage of his lifetime. His younger son, Mohamedally was assisted Moosbhai in running the business. The company in the Maldive Islands was assigned to an agent.
Shaikh Hebtulabhoy passed away on July 12 1897 in, his native land, India. He was survived by his wife, Sakinabhai, four daughters, Kulsumbhai, Fatemabhai, Kathijabhai, and Amtulabhai, and four sons, Moosbhai, Mohamedally, Tyeabally, and Abdulhusein. As per the terms prescribed in his last will and testament the business was inherited by the four sons in equal shares. Moosbhai was 33 years old and Mohamedally was only 17 and they were both married. The two younger boys Tyeabally and Abdulhusein were still minors aged 9 and 5 years.
Moosbhai and Mohamedally carried on the business as a partnership at the same premises at Fourth Cross Street in the Pettah. Their mother Sakinabhai managed the interests of the two younger brothers, Tyeabally and Abdulhusein. On May 30 1907, Moosbhai retired from the partnership and transferred his share of the Fourth Cross Street premises to his brothers, Mohamedally, Tyeabally and Abdulhusein. He then went on to start a new business, together with his sons, called "MSH Abdulally & Sons", in 1907 which was located in the adjoining premises at No 101 Fourth Cross Street in the Pettah. Moosbhai passed away on July 23 1903 while he was performing the pilgrimage of Hajj in Makkah in Saudi Arabia. He was survived by his five sons, Abdulally, Gulamhusein, Shaikh Adam, Gulamabbas, and Noordeen and one daughter, Amtulabhai. Two other members of his family, viz; his mother Sakinabhai and sister Kulsumbhai also died on the same day. The business founded by Moosbhai, in 1907, is still carried on by his descendants at Grandpass, very near to "Selby Stores", the headquarters of the Hebtulabhoy business.
Shortly after Moosbhai's retirement, in 1907, his brothers, Mohamedally, Tyeabally, and Abdulhusein, the remaining partners of the family business which was started by their father, Shaikh Hebtulabhoy, closed down their business and founded another under the name of "M S Hebtulabhoiy & Company", at the same location where their father began many years ago. The new company of M S Hebtulabhoy & Company was started as a partnership and then went on to become a private limited liability company and survived nearly eight decades. The principal lines of business of the firm, initially, was the import of food and hardware and the export of Ceylon produce.
M S Hebtulabhoy & Company Limited
Since the inception of M S Hebtulabhoy & Company, Mohamedally and his brothers concentrated on the development of exports and within a short span of time had established themselves successfully in the export of tea and coconut products. Their entry into the tea export was remarkable as they were the first Ceylonese company to break into a trade that had been the monopoly of British based Companies for more than half a century. D M Forrest, in his book, "A Hundred years of Ceylon Tea", an official publication commissioned by the Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board, states on page 152, as follows:-
"Very large purchasers today, for the Middle East markets in particular, are such firms as Hebtulabhoy & Company and Jafferjee Brothers. The former, established in Colombo for several generations, began shipping tea abroad in 1907; the latter, a more recent off-shoot of an old family business, despatched tea for the first time to Bahrain in 1954".
Following the excellent lead given by the founders, many years later the Hebtulabhoy family reached commanding heights in the export trade, scoring such achievements as the largest exporter of packeted teas in the private sector, the largest exporter of coconut oil (prior to nationalization of the major source of supply) and also pioneering the export of corrugated cartons from Ceylon.
Shortly after the outbreak of WWII, in 1939, Hebtulabhoy's made a large investment by purchasing the commercial premises known as "Selby Stores" in Grandpass, from The National Bank of India. It was in 1955 that the company moved its head office and export department to Selby Stores. Subsequently properties adjacent to Selby Stores were also purchased for the organization in order to cater to the expanding business needs. Premises No 224 and 266 at Layards Broadway in Colombo in 1964, Premises No 275 & 277 Grandpas Road in 1979 were those acquired in later years.
After having traded as a partnership for more than four decades, M S Hewbtulabhoy & Company decided, that in order to keep pace with modern business trends they should move to a limited liability company establishment. On Oct 30, 1951 a company with the same name under the Life Directorship of the Hebtulabhoy brothers, Mohamedally, Abdulhusein and their nephew Akbarally (son of Tyeabally) was extablished. The company commenced business on March 6, 1953 when the business was officially taken over from the old partnership. The new shareholders, comprising members of the family were appointed as follows:-
Noordeen Mohamedally Qurbanhusein Abdulhusein
The admission of the new directors to the newly formed private company was followed by the appointment of three new directors from within the family, viz Mohsinally son of Abdulhusein (2 Aug 1956), Fazal Hussein (2 Aug 1956), and Noordeen (6 Dec 1956), both, sons of Mohamedally.
Mohamedally, one of the three Life Directors, was the first Chairman of the Company. He continued as Life Director and Chairman untgil his death on November 30 1956. He wqas survived by his sons, Noordeen Mohamedally and Fazal Husein Mohamedally, and daughters, Sugrabhai, Rubbabhai, Banubhai and Ameenabhai. Fazal Hussein was also made a Life Director following the death of his father. Mohamedally's shares were inherited by his two sons, Fazal HGusein and Noordeen.
Abdulhusein, who was also a Life Director of the Company, was appointed Chairman in 1956 as a successor to his brother Mohamedally. A year later, in recognition for the valuable services he had rendered to the community, the title of Shaikh was conferred on him by His Holiness Dr Syedna Taher Saifudeen Saheb, the 51st Dai-Ul-Mutlaq of the Dawoodhi Bohra Community. Shaikh Abdulhusein continued as Chairman and Life Director of the Company until his death on February 24, 1968. He was survived by his sons Qurbanhusein, Taherali, Mohsinally, Amiruddeen, Asgarally, and Hamzaally, and daughters, Asmabhai, Shirinbhai, Kulsumbhai, Zehrabhai, Sakinabhai, Fatemabhai, and Hameedabhai. His shares were inherited by his sons and also grandchildren, Shabbirhusein and Zakiudeen, sons of Anverally, Shaikh Abdulhusein's oldest son who had predeceased him.
Between 1962 and 1969 the following members of the family, were appointed as Directors of the Company:-
Taherali son of Abdulhusein (Jan 1 1964)
Shaikh Abdulally passes away
Following the death of Shaikh Abdulally in 1968, Akbarally was appointed Chairman of the Company, and he held that office until his resignation in 1970. It was during this reign that his sons, Abbasally (Director), Abidally (Executive), and Inayetally (Company Secretary), all left the services of the company suddenly. They were, at that time, all attached to the Tea Department which was then, as now, a vital sector of the Company's business.
Akbarally's sons resigned from the Company in August 1969 in order to take up appointment with a competitive business which they had established under the ame of Akbar Brothers in May 1969. Akbar Brothers is, today in 2007, a very successful and flourishing business involved mainly in the export of tea amongst various other activities.
About a year later, on June 27, 1970, Akbarally resigned from the office of Chairman but continued to remain as a Director. He was succeeded as Chairman by Fazal Husein Mohamedally who was the only other Life Director at that time. Zakiudeen Anverally and Mohsinally Abdulhusein resigned from the office of Director on July 31 1970 and September 30 1970 respectively.
On May 16 1972 two important changes were made in the Company's Articles of Association. One was the abolition of the office of Life Director and the other was the creation of the office of Managing Director. In pursuance of these new changes, Akbarally and Fazal Husein Mohamedally ceased to be Life Directors and were given the positions of Ordinary Directors. At the Annual General Meeting of the Company held on December 28 1972, Akbarally was not re-elected and conseqently ceased to be a Director of the Company. On February 3 1982 Akbarally severed all connections with the Company by transferring his entire shareholding to his sons.
The Great Fire of 1970
The history oif the Hebtulabhoy's would not be complete without reference to the great fire of June 5 1970, that completely gutted the main building at the Selby Stores premises. This building housed te offices and rubber stores, and the fire destroyed all the merchandise, furniture, equipment and records that were stored within this location.
It was a colossal loss for the Hebtulabhoy's and amounted to a calamity that inevitably retarded their growth for several years. But even before they could recover from the shock of this catastrophe, they suffered another blow. Akbarally resigned from the position of Chairman at the very first Directors Meeting held after the fire on June 27 1970.
Fazal Husein Mohamedally, who was appointed as Chairman to succeed Akbarally, led the other Directors in a successful resurgence of the company which, thanks to their dedicated and valiant efforts, enabled Hebtulabhoy's to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes. The Company grew with renewed vigor and even surpassed their previous successes in this period.
Unfortunately, Fazal Husein Mohamedally did not live long enough to witness, share and enjoy this new resurgence of success for which he was the Chief Architect. He passed away on April 1 1975 and was survived by his wife, Banbhai, daughter Nazneen and son Ali Asghar. Shortly after, the Directorate of the Company was enlarged to accommodate Moizally Dawoodbhoy, son of Sugrabhai Mohamedally and Asgarally, son of Shaikh Abdulhusein, as Directors on April 28 1975. Asgarally has ceased to be a Director since July 10 1979.
Hamzaally, son of Shaikh Abdulhusein, was appointed Chairman on April 28 1975 as a successor to Fazal Husein Mohamedally and functioned in this office until December 3 1976 when he resigned. He was succeeded as Chairman by Amiruddeen, son of Shaikh Abdulhusein, who held office from December 3 1976 to December 29, 1976, after which he too resigned. Thereafter, Taherally, son of Shaikh Abdulhusein, was appointed Chairman on December 29 1976 and he held this office until July 31 1982.
Hamzaally Abdulhusein was appointed Managing Director of the Company on December 29 1976 which was the Company's first apppointment as MD. He held this office until May 31 1982.
The Company also fully owned two subsidiary limited liability companies, viz; Noorjohar Trading Company Limited, which was acquired on August 1 1977 for trading in rubber, and also MSH Packaging Industries Limited, which was established on March 21 1978 for the manufacture of packaging products, viz; corrugated cartons, Multiwall paper sacks etc.
For over a century Hebtulabhoy's, pursuing strictly conservative business policies, had confined their trading to such traditional lines as export of tea, rubber, coconut products, and spices and also the import of building materials and food. They had also purchased two tea plantations, Hydri Estate in Rozelle and Tayebi Estate in Ratnapura. They also introduced state of the art high-tech and sophisticated machinery for the manufacture of packeted teas and tea bags. Later on they also ventured into new commercial industrial ventures involving packaging, operation of tri-shaw taxis, imports of new lines of merchandise, road haulage, operation of luxury motor coaches for transport of tourists etc. They introduced three wheeler auto tri-shaw taxis to Sri Lanka in 1979. The Company has also participated in many local and international trade fairs. In November 1981 they operated a Trade Stall for Tea and Spices at the Sri Lanka County Fair in Dubai. This was followed by MSH Packaging Industries Trade Stall at the first Sri Lanka Packaging Exhibition held in Colombo in March 1982.
The Company has also expanded in its physical capacity by purchasing a large extent of freehold land at Weliveriya in the Gampaha District where a modern facdtory was established fr the packaging industry. In 19870 they acquired premises at Mattakuliya in Colombo 15 for the Transport Department. A lucrative extent of real estate in Kollupitiya (Colombo 3) was also acquired with a view to construct a modern commercial complex.
Having commenced its business as a limited liability company in 1953 with a capital of Sri Lanka Rupees one million the company has advanced successfully through the years amidst good times and bad ones.
Syedna's historic visit to Sri Lanka
For more than one reason the year 1982 is a memorable one in the history of the Hebtulabhoy's. It is in this year that His Holiness Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb, the 52nd incumbent of the holy office of Dai-Ul-Mutlaq, visited Sri Lanka and stayed at the home of the Hebtulabhoys as their honored guests. One of the main events during this visit was the ceremonial opening and consecration of the Dawoodhi Bohra Community Center which was graciously performed by His Holiness. On the 14th day of March 1982, amidst a pageant and ceremony full of splendor and rejoicing, His Holiness unveiled the commemorative plaque and declared open the Community Center in the presence of a large gathering which included Ministers, distinguished guests, and a large gathering of Dawoodhi Bohra's. In the community life of Dawoodhi Bohras nothing could have brought greater distinction and honor to the Hebtulabhoy's than Syedna's visit to Sri Lanka as their honored guest. March 14 1982 also witnessed another happy event. Following the opening of the Community Center, His Holiness was pleased to confer the title of Shaikh on Hamzaally in recognition of his services to the Community.
About a month later, even greater honor was bestowed on the Hebtulabhoys when His Holiness conferred the title of Shaikh on two other members, viz; Amiruddeen (April 13 1982) and Asgarally (April 23 1982).
The Crisis in 1982
Sadly, the history of the Hebtulabhoys had to end with an account of a major crisis which engulfed the family in May-June 1982. Disputes between the Directors of the Company escalated into a major crisis that was eventually resolved by the intervention of His Holiness Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb in London at a meeting of all parties concerned on June 17 1982. The settlement was implemented on July 31 1982, while resolving the dispute, led to the parting of some of the senior Directors and shareholders of the company. Hamza's group, consisting of Shaikh Hamzaally Abdulhusein, TAS Hebtulabhoy, and Shaikh Asgarally Abdulhusein, together with their children, sold their entire shareholding with MS Hebtulabhoy & Company Limited to Amir's group, consiting of Shaikh Amiruddeen Abdulhusein, Shaikh Noordeen Mohamedally, Moizally Dawoodbhoy and others. MS Hebtulabhoy & Company Limited sold their entire shareholding and other assets of MSH Packaging Industries Limited, to Hamza's group. By this separation, MSH Packaging Industries Limited ceased to be a member of the MS Hebtulabhoy Group on June 17 1982. The new Directors of MSH Packaging Industries Limited were TAS Hebtulabhoy (Chairman), Shaikh Hamzaally Abdulhussein (MD), and Shaikh Asgarally Abdulhusein (Director).
Shaikh Hebtulabhoy, the first ancestor of the Akbarally Family arrived in Ceylon, from India, in 1864. He was the founder of M S Hebtulabhoy & Company in Ceylon at P O Box 105, 257 Grandpass Rd., Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The company was one of the pioneers in tea, rubber and coconut exports and subsequently branched off into more diversified business in the medical and healthcare services. Queen’s Advocate Selby lived in a mansion called "Selby House", in Grandpass, which later went on to become the premises of M/S Heptulabhoy & Co, a flourishing export oriented business run by a Shaikh Hebtulabhoy, who renamed it to Selby Stores.
Akbar Brothers was formed in 1969, by three Akbarally brothers – Abbas, Abid and Inayet, and incorporated as a limited liability company, in 1972. Their father, Sheikh Akbarally Tyeabally, joined the Company in 1973. The company began diversification into tourism and warehousing in 1978 when the Welisara complex also commenced its operations. Quick Tea, inaugurated in 1979, handles the processing and export of tea bags. Hotel Reefcomber, a modern hotel in Hikkaduwa was also established in the same year. The new Head Office of the company moved to T. B. Jayah Mawatha (Darley Road), in 1980. Akbar Brothers Exports was established, in 1984, primarily to handle the export of packeted tea.
Falcon Trading, another Akbarally family company, diversified, in 1988, into the manufacture of garments for export.
Akbar Brothers, for the first time, is the largest tea exporter from Sri Lanka, exporting over 21 million kilograms of tea in 1992. More warehousing facilities were built at Wattala in the same year. Tea House was also established, in 1992, to market specialty tea packs. In 1993, Falcon Apparels took over the garment manufacturing activities previously handled by Falcon Trading.
Akbar Pharmaceuticals commenced the import & distribution of medical products & surgical instruments in Sri Lanka, in 1994.
Flexiprint, producing flexible packaging to assist in the packing of tea including tea bag tags and envelopes, was also established in 1994.
AB Developments was established in 1997 and manages the warehousing facilities and requirements of the Group.
A state-of-the-art warehousing complex, Consisting of 380,000 sq. ft. of warehousing space, was built in Kelaniya, in 1999.
In 2000, Akbar Brothers continued to be the largest tea exporter, with an export volume of over 31 million kilograms of tea. This is the largest quantity ever to be exported by an individual company in Sri Lanka. In 2001, The Kelaniya complex expanded to accommodate a further 100,000 sq. feet of warehousing.
In 2001, 16 houses were built by Akbar Brothers Ltd., managed by the Shrinbai Shaikh Akbarally & Fathemabai Kanji Trust. The houses provide comfortable living conditions for 16 underprivileged families.
In 2002, Abbas Akbarally, Chairman, celebrated 50 years in the Tea Trade. In 2002, Akbar Brothers continues to be the largest exporter of tea for the 10th year successively.
Quick Tea moved its operations to a state-of-the-art facility in Mabole in 2003. This expansion facilities the production of 15 million tea bags a day.